Belfast Telegraph

Supreme Court judge to probe 'smear campaign' against Garda whistleblower

A Supreme Court judge is to lead an inquiry into an alleged smear campaign among high-ranking gardai against a whistleblower in the force.

Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she has accepted a Commission of Inquiry needs to set up into claims that senior officers conspired to blacken a colleague's name in the force and among journalists and politicians.

Judge Peter Charleton is to lead the investigation.

He is well versed in issues relating to Garda corruption, having been senior counsel to the Morris Tribunal as it probed rogue policing in the force in Donegal.

The smear campaign allegations were made by the former head of the Garda press office, Superintendent Dave Taylor, who is currently suspended from the force over the leaking of the names of Roma children who were taken into social care in 2013.

He claimed that senior gardai targeted whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe in a widespread character assassination by passing on false and damaging allegations.

The decision to call a full inquiry was taken on the recommendation of Judge Iarfhlaith O'Neill, who filed a report on the scandal to the Tanaiste last December.

Several garda whistleblowers have been identified in recent years, some of whom have spoken out about their treatment after raising concerns about corruption or bad policing.

Among them are Sergeant Maurice McCabe, who was vindicated over the vast majority of his concerns about policing standards in parts of the Cavan-Monaghan division and abuse of the penalty point system.

Others are Nick Keogh and Keith Harrison, both of whom have been named in the Dail as being victims of harassment after raising concerns about policing.

Fianna Fail justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan said: " Fianna Fail has been clear in saying that such an investigation is needed.

"We now look forward to Judge Peter Charleton working towards a speedy conclusion to his investigation so that we can get to the truth of these matters as soon as possible."

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan has insisted she knew nothing about the alleged smear campaign.

Jonathan O'Brien, Sinn Fein justice spokesman, said Judge O'Neill's report is of "enormous public interest" and called for a timeline for the inquiry.

"Given the very serious allegations made against Garda management by the whistleblowers and alleged attempts to denigrate the name and reputation of Maurice McCabe, there is a very serious sense of urgency," he said.

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